Eating out: Flow, Bangkok

(by peter)

Bangkok: 2:42am. Sleepless. The air con is humming gently. The horizon remains steadfastly glittering, gaudy. Perhaps blogging will help..?

Last night, we savoured the charms of Flow, one of the several restaurants in the Millennium Hilton, Bangkok. We’d flown in during the afternoon, on a stop-over en route to Auckland. Despite the time difference and sleep deprivation, our first thoughts were for the evening’s food and drink. A promising Thai cuisine venue in the hotel was ruled out because it involved some sort of “entertainment”. The international cuisine of Flow it was.

First, a bit of scene-setting. The Millennium Hilton, Bangkok isn’t afraid of grand-standing. Its lobby is the kind you walk in to and gape at, slack-jawed, before walking into a pillar, or one of the many helpful staff members. It’s a health hazard.

Flow is essentially a continuation of the lobby but at the back of the hotel, where an open-plan kitchen serves buffet delights to tables both inside and on the terrace, all overlooking the river, where string-lit junks and tourist boats plough the waves, no doubt very profitably.

Suffice to say it’s an impressive venue, in an international-hotel kind of way. We settled in and availed ourselves of a distinctly unpromising bottle of Signos Chenin/Chardonnay from San Juan in Argentina. (The list was a bit pricey for our budget, if relatively well apportioned for a short selection.)

But this turned out to be an excellent drop for 1800 Baht (about £35): full of succulent peach flavours and a generous lick of oak. Just perfect: refreshing and replenishing. Which, I must admit, I wouldn’t have expected of an Argentine white from San Juan. It’s always nice to have your assumptions challenged in a delicious and unexpected way.

(As a casual observation, everyone else – to a man – was drinking red. Was this the famous Asian preference for red I’d read about so much? Many of the other guests were indeed Thai people, seemingly out for a Friday night posh dinner. But perhaps they were all having the steak…)

Susie ate from the buffet – a pleasant enough selection of all kinds of cuisines from Japanese to Thai and all sorts in between. I went for a wok-fried chicken with cashews, spring onion and dried chilli. The food hit the mark very nicely: nothing too fancy, but entirely satisfying.

We were tired so didn’t stay too long to savour the atmosphere, which was decidedly sultry (and not just because of the live jazz tootling away in the background). But it is just worth mentioning Jack.

“Jack” was our chatty and spiky-haired waiter. He soon revealed himself to be a dark horse, however, mentioning he was in charge of The Cheese Room. The very phrase had us intrigued immediately. So, after the meal, we went to check it out. The following video was taken in the very same room, which seemed to have been insulated from most things apart from the infernal jazz tootling:

I’m not sure what the carbon footprint of The Cheese Room is, but it’s no doubt considerable. This glass-walled, walk-in room is like a spa resort for cheeses, which bristle all along one very long counter, basking in cool conditions. On the shelf are signs detailing the wine-and-food matching they do here – a promising sign. Jack mentioned this was the largest such facility in South East Asia. I’m not surprised. The cheese, sourced from all corners of the globe, was delicious. A dangerous place to dwell for too long…

In fact, now I come to think of it, perhaps that could be the reason for the insomnia? Traveller: beware the cheese rooms of South East Asia.

Tomorrow: Susie’s got her eye on the bustling food market just round the corner from the hotel. An evening flight to Auckland. And then the trip really starts in earnest. Hot springs at Rotorua followed by a week-long winery road trip taking in the likes of Craggy Range, Te Mata, Dry River, Ata Rangi, Villa Maria, Dog Point and Neudorf. And that’s just for starters…